Romelu Lukaku can play in the Inter Milan Vs Juventus Coppa Italia second leg semifinal after the President of the Italian FA, Gabriele Gravina intervened.

This according to Italian media outlet FCInterNews who report that the President if the FIGC (Italian FA) Gabriele Gravina, has exercised his executive powers to remove the second yellow card Romelu Lukaku received in the first leg of the Semifinal of the Coppa Italia against Juventus.

It was reported earlier today, via the online edition of Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera, that the FIGC President could intervene to lift the one-match ban the Nerazzurri striker had received following two yellow cards leading to his dismissal.

This automatic one match ban, which was upheld by the court of appeals, was reportedly going to be reversed by Gravina pardoning Lukaku in order to make a statement against racism.

That decision has now been officially confirmed by the Italian FA with the reasoning behind this decision being just that: to take a stand against racism.

“The principle of the fight against every form of racism is a fundamental element of the sporting system” the statement by the FIGC reads as per ANSA.

Romelu Lukaku Racially Abused By Juventus Fans

An official report by investigators from the FIGC (Italian FA), as reported via FCInterNews, gave an account of the racist abuse that was hurled at Nerazzurri striker Romelu Lukaku from Bianconeri fans, as well as how the brawl on the pitch erupted after the final whistle of the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal which ended in  a 1-1 draw.

The FIGC investigators’ report notes that the hostile reaction to Inter striker Lukaku from Juventus supporters began with the Belgian’s late tackle on Bianconeri defender Federico Gatti in the 80th minute.

The Nerazzurri striker, who had come on as a second-half substitute, was booked for the challenge, whilst the reaction from Juventus fans in the stands was to begin loudly booing the player.

According to the FIGC investigators’ report, a majority of the 5034 fans present in the first tier of the Tribuna Sud section of the Allianz Stadium behind the Juventus goal began making “monkey” chants shortly after Lukaku’s foul on Gatti, which were perceptible to the investigators present.

Then, after Inter were awarded a penalty late on in the match, it was Lukaku who stepped up to take it.

The FIGC report notes that the racist “monkey” chants continued and grew louder whilst the Belgian was waiting to take the spot kick.

Moreover, the investigators that there was one unidentified object that was thrown into the penalty area, whilst a half-full water bottle also made it on to the playing area.

After Lukaku scored from the spot and went to celebrate in front of the stand full of Juventus supporters by making a “silencing” gesture, and then was subsequently sent off, the FIGC reports that the racial abuse intensified.

The investigators heard more “monkey” chants as well as “racially derogatory” language shouted at the Inter strikers from certain Bianconeri fans present in the stand behind the goal.

Inter Milan’s Appeal First Rejected

Inter presented an appeal to have Lukaku‘s one-match suspension for Wednesday’s match against Juventus lifted to the FIGC’s court of appeals, but the appeal was denied.

The court’s decision was to uphold the suspension to the 29-year-old Belgian international who is therefore still set to miss the second leg of the semifinal tie against the Bianconeri as things stand.

After the court’s decision to reject the appeal was denied, the Nerazzurri released a statement condemning the decision, arguing that “The victim has become the only guilty party” in this instance.

This is a reference to the fact that the second yellow card for which the striker received his suspension came amid a context of racist abuse from  Juventus supporters at the first leg of the tie, with a report by FIGC investigators stating a “majority” of fans present in the Tribuna Sud stand could be heard making racist chants.

The Tribuna Sud stand was initially closed down for Juventus’s league match against Napoli, but the Bianconeri successfully appealed to have the stand reopened after they had identified some fans responsible for racist chants and taken actions.

Hence, the club have argued that with the upholding of the suspension of Lukaku for what appeared a relatively innocuous celebration aimed at fans who were racially abusing him, the only concrete punishment handed down by the authorities in the wake of this scandalous incident was directed at the victim at the centre of it.

International Criticism

The backlash that followed to both the racist attacks, the decision to send off and to subsequently uphold Romelu Lukaku’s suspension, has been massive and global with many leading figures in football as well as NGO’s and companies voicing their disgust with the decision.

Football Social Justice organization Common Goal reacted to the the referee’s decision to send Romelu Lukaku off in disbelief.

US based agency Roc Nation Sports, who represent Romelu Lukaku, released an open letter urging Italian football “to do better” adding “enough is enough” after the incident, adding that the decision to uphold Lukaku’s ban only showed “more must be done.”